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This week, the city of Chicago has approved a reparations package that will supply money and benefits to men with credible claims to have been tortured by the “Midnight Crew” of Police Commander John Burge. Burge appears to have used suffocation, electrical shocks, and Russian roulette-style “fake executions” to force confessions out of more than 200 people in the ’70s and early ’80s.
The department fired him in 1993, and a 2002 investigation turned up serious evidence of abuse. Burge wasn’t charged because the statute of limitations had elapsed on his offenses. However, he did serve four and a half years for perjury and obstruction of justice (relating to a civil suit filed against him) and was only recently released. He’s currently drawing a police pension.
What do we think of all this? To me it seems pretty clear that Burge’s tactics were far beyond the range of acceptable police behavior. Whether or not you would classify his “Midnight Crew’s” activities as torture (which I think we plausibly should), using “extreme interrogation tactics” to coerce confessions is obviously unjust. It’s somewhat interesting that the settlement offered by the city is relatively small ($5.5 million) in comparison to the costs already incurred from related judgments and legal costs, and also that it also includes provisions for counseling, job training and other services for victims. (They’re also erecting a monument. Hmm.)